formal dinner reception setup with rectangle tables
Credit: Bride and Blossom

Setting Up Your Wedding Tablescape: Colors and Elements

You’ve got the big day locked down. Your venue is booked and your guest list is done. You can’t wait to celebrate your special day with family and friends. Hooray!

Receptions are a common part of weddings, typically held during dinner and to a lesser extent, as lunch, where food and drink are served to guests. Preparing for the reception involves designing your tablescape which is the arrangement of all your elements such as table linens, centerpieces, tableware, and other finishing touches to create a gorgeous and cohesive look.

Don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered.

Today, we’ll dive a bit deeper into all the various elements of a tablescape as well as some popular color choices.

This article will only scratch the surface of all the possible color and element combinations available. There are entire articles dedicated to single elements such as tablecloths, so be sure to check out other articles for inspiration!

Theme and Color

The first thing on the list is to consider how your wedding theme will play into the decor that will be used. With a myriad of themes such as rustic, vintage, modern/minimalist, and bohemian, etc, there are countless combinations that can play into what your table setting looks like.

For instance, rustic themes lean heavily into earthy tones such as purple/burgundy, brown, cream, and yellow. Check out the outdoor rustic table setting with lots of earthy colors and greenery.

rustic outdoor dinner reception with lush greenery

Credit: WedBoard

Modern or classic-style weddings will incorporate more whites, blacks, and grays. Additionally, they’ll also utilize hues such as ivory and champagne.

modern wedding tablescape with clear plateware

Credit: Hitched UK

Colors add a “visual pop!” to your tablescape and are a prominent aspect of the design, so be sure to choose the right palette.

Foundation (Tablecloth, Runners, And More)

If you’ve got an idea of which colors you’d like to incorporate into your tablescape, you can begin moving into the table linens. The tablecloth will cover much, if not all, of the surface area on your dinner area so choose an option that matches the primary or complementary color.

With the example below, you can see that the overall theme incorporates a lot of whites, so some of the table linens use an off-white while another uses a light pastel blue. Simply gorgeous!

formal outdoor wedding with white table linens

Credit: Brides

Table linens come in a variety of different fabrics as well. If you’re not sure what options are available, online companies such as CV Linens have an extensive list of tablecloths and table runners, ranging from various colors and textures to choose from.

When choosing a fabric, you’ll want to pair it with the ambiance of your wedding. White linens and lace material can provide a touch of soft sophistication and romance, while sequins can be used to add elegance to the overall look.

layered table linens on a rectangle dinner table

Credit: Brides

As a side note, table linens and runners aren’t always necessary. Country-style weddings may opt to have a more outdoorsy feel and lean into the natural look that wooden tables offer. As a result, you may just want to have a simple table runner, or nothing at all.

rustic outdoor tablescape with different colors

Credit: Maison de Pax

Tableware (Glassware, Plates, Utensils, Napkins)

formal dinner reception plateware

Credit: The Spruce

As we continue layering the elements of our tablescape, this is where different styles will inform what tableware is available. The overall design theme needs to stay consistent.

Formal and elegant weddings tend to have considerably more tableware. There’s a lot that goes into a formal plate setting such as charger plates, dinner plates, salad plates, and bread plates. That’s just the plates, nevermind the forks and knives. The key thing to remember is that the tableware should be an extension of the wedding theme.

As such, formal weddings frequently use fancy flatware (i.e., gold) to bring forth that sophisticated feeling.

modern plateware setting

Credit: Marriage In Style

On the other hand, you can also keep it relatively simple such as this boho-style table setting. A single set of flatware for the main course along with embellishments to create a free-spirited tablescape that is naturally gorgeous.

wedding reception table setup with ivory and champagne colored plateware

Credit: Bliss and Willow


By now, you’re seeing a pattern in order to thread the wedding style through each element of your tablescape. The centerpiece is an important part of the setting as it plays a significant role in providing a visual element and focal point for guests sitting at the table.

Choosing the appropriate centerpiece will enhance the atmosphere and aesthetic of your look.

What we love about choosing centerpieces is that while it needs to fit the theme, we also think of it as the beating heart of a tablescape. There are so many creative ways to incorporate a centerpiece so that it complements all of the other elements.

For instance, tall centerpieces can add drama and vertical interest. Pairing it in a glass vase can add a touch of elegance and glamor.

live flower centerpiece

Credit: Pinterest

Likewise, a simple wooden centerpiece can speak volumes and bring a down-to-earth simplicity to the tablescape. Centerpieces can be as extravagant as you like and some other considerations you’ll want to think about include:

Table size and proportions: While gorgeous, you’ll want to ensure that the centerpiece doesn’t interfere with the experience of the guests. Taller centerpieces can be gorgeous but if they break line of sight, it can make it more difficult for guests sitting across from each other to converse.

Budget: Centerpieces can get pricey, especially if you’re looking for silk flowers or even live flower centerpieces.

Venue requirements: If you want to incorporate other things such as candles into your centerpiece, be sure to consult with the venue in case there are limitations with open flames.

rustic plate setting with wooden centerpiece

Credit: Four Oaks Manor

Decorative Elements and Finishing Touches

rustic plate setting with wooden centerpiece

Credit: Yeah Weddings

Lastly, you can add decorative elements to embellish the hard work you’ve put into your tablescape.

Some examples may include confetti (use flower petals!) or small decorative objects that tie in with your theme such as votive candles and more florals.

The lovely thing about these small decor items is that there is flexibility. Don’t be afraid to experiment and if there’s something that speaks to you on a personal level, add it in!

candles and centerpieces on table

Credit: Brides

A Final Tip: Table Layout

Round vs Rectangle Tables

round and rectangle tables in wedding hall

Credit: Cavin Elizabeth

While tables themselves aren’t part of a tablescape, it’s worth mentioning that there are pros and cons to both which can play a part in how to set up your final design.

Round tables fit more people which in turn means that you can also set up a single centerpiece in the middle. This can mean drastic savings given how elaborate certain decor can be.

On the other hand, rectangle tables are incredibly trendy and you can incorporate decor such as hanging floral installations to create a truly wondrous looking ambiance.

It’s possible to combine both for the best of both worlds, so if you’ve got a vision in mind, work with the venue or a wedding planner to see how it can fit best with the floor plan.